URBANA, Ill. — With proper care, your holiday poinsettia plant can bring pleasure for weeks or even months after the holiday season ends, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
House temperatures, as well as light and humidity levels, affect the length of time the plant will remain attractive, according to David Robson.
First brought to this country from Mexico in 1825, the poinsettia has long been the traditional Christmas pot plant.
Red-flowered forms are the most popular, but white, pink, and variegated pink and white varieties are also grown.
Poinsettias are sensitive to drafts, too cool or too warm temperatures, sudden temperature changes, dry atmosphere, improper watering and light.
Robson recommended keeping a uniform room temperature for poinsettias between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 10 degrees cooler at night.
Humidity levels of 20 to 50 percent are ideal, though these may be difficult to achieve in the winter with the furnace drying out the air.
Group the plants together or place them on water-filled trays of pebbles to increase humidity levels, Robson recommended.
The plant should be placed near a bright window, just out of direct sunlight, or be provided with 14 hours of artificial light.
If windows aren’t airtight and leak cold air, move the plants farther back.
It has been said that more plants are killed or damaged by ‘drowning’ than anything else,” according to Robson.
Plants need air as well as water, so avoid over-watering. Learn to gauge the moisture content of the soil by its color and feel.
As the surface dries, it gets light-colored. Pots also feel lighter. When soil is too dry, it becomes firm and sometimes cracked; when saturated, it feels slimy and sticky.
Experience helps in finding the ideal condition.
Robson said soil moisture should be maintained at moderate and uniform levels, neither soggy-wet nor bone-dry.
If the plant came wrapped in foil or other watertight material, be sure to punch holes in the bottom or remove the wrap entirely so water won’t be trapped inside.
Poinsettia plants can be cut back by half in mid-March to encourage new shoots.
Poinsettias can be placed outside in the spring after danger of frost has passed and brought indoors in mid-September to early October to force into bloom.